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Eagar v. Gardner

United States District Court, D. Utah, Southern Division

January 8, 2019

MICHAEL PAUL EAGAR, Plaintiff,
v.
ALAN GARDNER, et. al., Defendants.

          DAVID NUFFER DISTRICT JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DUSTIN B. PEAD MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This case is currently before Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead pursuant to a 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B) referral from District Judge David Nuffer. (ECF No. 3.) Michael Paul Eagar (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against Alan Gardner, James Eardley, Dennis Drake, James Crips, Brian Tritle, Jimmie Tyree (collectively the “County Defendants”), and the Bureau of Land Management and Ryan Zinke (collectively the “ BLM Defendants”) raising claims of a regulatory taking or a trespass of Plaintiff's mining claims. (Complaint, (“Compl.”)ECF No. 1.)

         Presently before the court are the following motions: County Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (ECF No. 12), County Defendants' Motion to Strike Objection or Motion for Leave to Respond (ECF No. 17), County Defendants' Motion to Strike Addendum (ECF No. 19), Plaintiff's Motion for Contempt (ECF No. 21), BLM Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21), Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24), and Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default (ECF No. 31). The matters have been fully briefed. The court has carefully reviewed the moving papers submitted by the parties. Pursuant to civil rule 7-1(f) of the Rules of Practice for the United States District Court for the District of Utah, the court concludes that oral argument is not necessary and will determine the motions on the basis of the written papers. See DUCivR 7-1(f).

         BACKGROUND

         By 1990 the federal government had identified the desert tortoise as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. See U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Revised Recovery Plan for the Mohave Population of the Desert Tortoise, dx.doi.org/10.3996/022015-JFWM-013.S7. In order to protect the species, a recovery plan was published in 1994 that included designating land in Utah as a critical habit for the desert tortoise. Id. at 1, 13. In approximately 1996, Washington County and the State of Utah, in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management, created the approximately 62, 000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve (“Reserve”), in part, to protect the desert tortoise and its habitat. Id. at 28. In 2009, as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (“Conservation Area”) was created. It consists of 45, 000 acres and is part of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. See Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-11, § 1974, 123 STAT. 991, 1081-83 (2009), available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ11/pdf/PLAW-111publ11.pdf.

         Plaintiff does not contest that the Reserve has been in existence for over 21 years. Compl. at 6. According to Plaintiff, however, his family has owned ten mining claims for more than 66 years that are located in the Reserve. Id. Plaintiff contends the Reserve and Conservation Area amount to a regulatory taking or a trespass. Id. at 6-7. According to Plaintiff, the County Defendants and BLM Defendants have violated CFR Regulation of BLM Land 43, Section 1714.[1] Id. Therefore, Plaintiff requests $50, 000, 000.00 in compensation. Id. at 8.

         PENDING MOTIONS

         A. County Defendants' Motions to Dismiss

         The County Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's action arguing that his claims are time barred by the operative statutes of limitations. (See generally ECF No. 12.) In response, Plaintiff asserts his claims are not time-barred because (1) he did not know that he could seek redress until recently, (2) the County Defendants engaged in fraud, and (3) he continues suffer harm each day there is a restriction on his mining claims. (ECF No. 13 at 4, 5.) However, Plaintiff's efforts to toll the statute of limitations fall short.

         “At the motion-to-dismiss stage, a complaint may be dismissed on the basis of a statute-of limitations defense only if it appears beyond a doubt that Plaintiff [ ] can prove no set of facts that toll the statute.” Matthews v. Wiley, No. 09-cv-00978-PAB-CBS, 2010 WL 3703357, at *5 (D. Colo. Sep. 13, 2010) (citing Tello v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 410 F.3d 1275, 1288 n. 13 (11th Cir. 2005)); see also Bullington v. United Air Lines, Inc., 186 F.3d 1301, 1310 n. 3 (10th Cir. 1999) (noting “that Rule 12(b)(6) is a proper vehicle for dismissing a complaint that, on its face, indicates the existence of an affirmative defense such as noncompliance with the limitations period). State law claims asserted in federal court are governed by the applicable state statutes of limitations. See Walker v. Armco Steel Corp., 446 U.S. 740, 751-52 (1980). Furthermore, “[m]ere ignorance of the existence of a cause of action will neither prevent the running of the statute of limitations nor excuse a plaintiff's failure to file a claim within the relevant statutory period.” Donner v. Nicklaus, 197 F.Supp.3d 1312, 1325 (D. Utah July 15, 2016) (citing Russell Packard Dev. v. Carson, 2005 UT 14, ¶ 20 (2005)).

         i. Regulatory taking cause of action.

         Plaintiff alleges his mining claims were “illegally destroyed” when the County Defendants, in 1996, allowed them to be included in the Reserve. Compl. at 1-2. A regulatory taking transpires when a significant restriction is placed on an owner's use of his property, which requires compensation to the owner. See Tolman v. Logan City,167 P.3d 489, 492 (Utah Ct. App. 2007) (citing View Condo. Owners Ass'n v. MSICO L.L.C., 2005 UT 91, ¶ 31, 127 P.3d 697 (2005)). In Utah, the time to bring a takings claim is four years. See Tolman at 492 (stating “[t]he catch-all four-year statute of limitations contained in Utah Code section [78B-2-307(3)] applies to actions not governed by other statute of ...


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